South Arts (then the Southern Arts Federation) started working on a national initiative for preparedness in the arts shortly after the 2005 hurricane season. In the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, we collected and distributed $200,000 to artists and arts organizations affected by the disaster. However, South Arts quickly realized that arts organizations had either no readiness plans or insufficient readiness plans, a problem that made their organizational comebacks after Katrina/Rita challenging, if not impossible. With funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and assistance from the University of California/Berkeley’s IT and Continuity staff and the Mississippi Arts Commission, South Arts began researching business continuity. As a result the ArtsReady initiative was born. Over the years we’ve worked within the arts and planning communities developing an approach for “all hazards” readiness, since hurricanes aren’t the only or even the most frequent crises cultural organizations face. We started with a library resource for organizations so they could research and learn about planning. Shortly after, with more help from The Mellon Foundation and guidance from our technology partners, Fractured Atlas, we developed the online ArtsReady platform. This platform is a tool that provides arts organizations with customized business continuity plans. It guides administrators into thinking about the core organizational, or critical, functions (assets, resources, activities, and finances) to find ways to safeguard them—formulating solutions, rather than considering all of the possible problems. Version 1.0 of the ArtsReady platform launched in September 2011.
As a member of the growing readiness community, South Arts co-chairs the National Coalition for Arts’ Preparedness and Emergency Response, which works to encourage continuity planning in all facets of the arts. The Coalition connects those impacted by a disaster with response and recovery resources, and it is developing tools and networks to help Arts Responders become more effective. The Coalition also advocates for public policies that ensure artists and arts organizations have access to emergency resources. Download the Coalition’s whitepaper about the readiness movement in the arts.